Snapshot: "Three Surprising Facts" Assignment

Snapshot: "Three Surprising Facts" Assignment

University Communication and Marketing Photography /University of Iowa

A one page writing assignment helped Sebastian De Pascuale, Ph.D. graduate student in the Physics and Astronomy Department, engage students in assessment in the new TILE-Constellation Course: Origins of Life in the Universe.

This activity requires students to write three of the most surprising facts they learned from the course materials.

Students were also asked to elaborate by citing particular readings, prior personal essays, and concept maps.

“This demonstrated that students were able to draw from the material themselves and not only things that were delivered in traditional format from each class period,” said De Pascuale.

This one page writing assignment includes three paragraphs - one surprise per paragraph that features topics from different activities - and activities that really helped them to understand that topic.

De Pascuale provided a specific format for these writings - such as bolding or underlining their topics in each paragraph - which streamlined his grading process and helped him evaluate student writing in a manageable way.

This approach also proved to be very useful in evaluating a range of topics in the students’ minds and final end of the semester evaluations.

“Giving students the space and opportunity to express their own voice and impressions,allows you to make improvements in your own teaching much the way students experience improvement in learning,” says De Pascuale.


Origins Semester Reflection Writing Assignment - Handout of assignment provided to students and a chart highlighting the variety of concepts that surprised students in Origins. Courtesy of Sebastian De Pascuale and Cornelia Lang.